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It searches users’ phone and QQ contacts, which meant it was able to build a massive user base very quickly. After launching domestically as "Weixin" in early 2011, the company rebranded itself as We Chat for the international market in 2012.

Two years ago, flirting with someone in China often meant exchanging QQ handles; now, you tell potential boos to add you on We Chat. Now, the app is available in English, Russian, Indonesian, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

Problem is, I always feel obligated to add one teeny, little caveat: Even if you’re living stateside, there’s a chance you’ll be surveilled by the Chinese government.

LOL Censorship Awkward fact: Every internet company in China, both foreign and domestic, is held legally liable for all content shared through their various platforms.

(So are telecom operators, on grounds related to guarding state secrets.) In other words, Tencent does and must censor We Chat messages shared within China.

It claims rules are different for content exchanged outside of China.

Here’s a free tip, Facebook execs: Pitch stories to every tech writer you know about the threat of dissidents being tracked through the Chinese-owned messaging app We Chat.

Because We Chat is climbing in your window, snatching your people up. If you haven’t heard of We Chat, think of it as a better Whats App, crossed with the social features of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, mixed with Skype and a walkie-talkie—with a little dash of Grindr on top.(Or bottom, depending on your personal proclivities.) It’s taken China by storm. Unsurprisingly, it’s attracting a lot of marketing interest: Companies like Starbucks and Nike have already run campaigns on We Chat.If you ever used ICQ (“I seek you”) back in the day, you have some connection to We Chat’s origins.We Chat’s parent company, Tencent, more or less copied ICQ and launched it in China in 1999 as OICQ (the “O” stands for “open”).Due to potential copyright issues surrounding the name, as well as the fact that “open” ICQ wasn’t actually open, OICQ was later renamed QQ.Today, QQ’s homepage is the ninth-most visited website in the world, and the service has more than 700 million active users.

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